Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Task Force Spent Months Tracking Heroin Sales

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Task Force Spent Months Tracking Heroin Sales

Article excerpt

In January, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office launched a large task force, eventually comprising more than 20 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, ending Thursday with the announcement of 115 drug-related arrests.

Detectives interviewed defendants, confidential informants, the families of heroin addicts and combed through arrest data from across North Jersey. Heroin overdoses, drug-related crimes and deaths were on the rise, they found. From 2011 to 2012, more than 130 overdoses in the county were tied to heroin or opiates; 38 ended in death. An increase in robberies, burglaries and shoplifting were also reported, along with pawn shop sales.

The uptick was particularly apparent among suburban young adults, who were driving daily into Paterson to buy heroin from a network of dealers believed to be affiliated with the Bloods gang.

The task force had a multi-prong approach that included undercover buys -- using informants or undercover detectives to purchase heroin from street dealers -- and electronic surveillance, including undercover photography and wiretaps, according to a Prosecutor's Office memo from January made available to The Record. A reporter accompanied detectives on several occasions, on including surveillance details and during arrests.

For months, detectives fanned out across Paterson, homing in on the run-down houses along Governor Street, the bodegas on 12th Avenue and 22nd Street, the corners around Public School 6, the parking lot near a McDonald's.

Detectives watched as cars pulled up to known high-volume drug areas -- "Dealers kind of flock like pigeons to food," as Sgt. David Borzotta put it. Police then ran license plates. More often than not, the buyers were in a car registered to a nearby suburb.

"If you see two white girls in a car in Paterson, you know what they're there for," said one detective, who could not be identified because it would compromise the detective's undercover status. …

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